House official tests Covid-19 positive, MPs isolate
Covid-19 cases had been reported among parliament staff earlier, but this is the first time it involved the main parliament building and affected MPsUpdated: Jul 15, 2020 03:38 IST
After a senior parliament official, who had attended a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee last week, tested positive for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on Tuesday morning, several MPs have gone into self-isolation.
Two MPs and a senior Lok Sabha official confirmed the developments. Covid-19 cases had been reported among parliament staff earlier, but this is the first time it involved the main parliament building and affected MPs. It underlines the vulnerability of holding meetings amid the Covid-19 pandemic and some lawmakers feel that the demand for online meetings will now get louder. A total of 18 MPs attended the meeting.
With many MPs swiftly moving into to self-isolation, some of the upcoming meetings of the parliamentary panels have been affected. Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) Bhartruhari Mahtab, the chairman of the labour panel and a member of the PAC, said, “I am in self-isolation and so the meeting of the labour committee has been deferred to July 20.”
Another MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar announced on twitter that he is going into quarantine.
Although strict health norms—members wore masks and maintained distance— were observed at the meeting of the Parliament’s audit watchdog on July 10, the emergence of an active case of an official who sat throughout the meeting and assisted MPs took many by surprise. BJP MPs had thwarted PAC chief Adhir Chowdhury’s attempt to discuss PM Cares fund in that meeting.
The first time such an incident inadvertently involving a parliamentary panel meeting and MPs comes amid the demand for digital meetings. Four panel heads —Shashi Tharoor, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh and Adhir Chowdhury (all four Congress leaders) — had sought permission to go online but no digital plan for panels has been finalised yet.
An opposition leader said, “After this incident, the demand for holding online meetings will grow even louder. We have a stronger case to underline the risk of meeting offline when Covid cases are exponentially growing in India.”
The labour panel was scheduled to discuss the crucial subject of changes in labour laws by some states and issues relating to migrant labour force. Five meetings of different panels are also slated in this week.
Officials also said that a few weeks ago, two junior staff members were detected with Covid-19 in one of high offices of the Lok Sabha, prompting a few top officials to go into self-quarantine.
Previously, a few senior officers and a senior housekeeper had also tested positive. The Lok Sabha officials have started attending office in select numbers since May.